Assuring Productivity When Your Team Is Working from Home
The Covid-19 virus has disrupted and rearranged the workplace with unprecedented speed. Within a week, organizations across the insurance industry sent staggering numbers of employees home to work remotely. In many cases, managers have been thrust into the position of leading virtual teams, many for the first time.
Under quarantine, every aspect of the manager’s role has been magnified and complicated. You’ll need to reset expectations of how work gets done, adapt your management style, and make use of technology and leadership practice in a new context. This new reality raises a whole set of challenges including getting wet signatures in paperless offices, communicating properly when interpersonal signals are limited, and finding opportunities for spontaneous and informal interaction.
We have drawn up a series of recommendations for remote leadership. These are proven approaches that will enable you to support the emotional well-being of your employees, secure productivity and utilization, effectively manage virtual team meetings, and maintain team morale.
Maintain regular, proactive contact
Shorter communication cycle times are more effective when it comes to building and sustaining morale and engagement. Don’t leave an employee on their own for several days. On the other hand, in your communications make sure you don’t confuse surveillance and micromanagement for support and dialogue. Find out what works best for the various members of your team. For some, it’ll be live phone conversations or video calls, while others will prefer chats or email.
Assign buddies and peer coaches to add a layer of mutual support
Attending to every team member’s needs will quickly exhaust the capacity of most managers. To distribute that responsibility, organize team members into pairs with each individual assigned as a buddy and peer coach to their colleague. This shared leadership model creates a second layer of mutual support and guards against emotional isolation.
You’ve got to help people understand how to do remote work and give them confidence that it will work. Develop rituals and have a disciplined way of managing the day. A small number of templates and regular meetings can help you and your people put structure into practice. Embrace the introduction of new technologies and don’t limit remote access. Foster possibilities for quick interaction and increased use of agile methods.
Get the infrastructure right
Create the necessary technical infrastructure to enable people to work by video, phone, or Slack/Jive/Yammer and similar collaboration tools. In most cases these are quick to set up even if you haven’t used them before. We’ve been seeing virtual sales calls and client engagements doing the exact same things as in face-to-face sessions. We’ve even seen teams virtually wine and dine. Be creative!
Have a management support tool in place
One way of achieving basic transparency is by simply starting with a «process board» based on an Excel spreadsheet, an order book, or a virtual whiteboard (as available in Jira, Teams, and many other of the collaboration platforms already in use at your company) to manage the team’s workload, priorities, and spirit. This will help you to foster a mindset of «thinking in deliverables,» which automatically keeps your team alignment sessions short but impactful. It also gives team members more freedom in terms of how they handle a task.
And when things are back to normal?
Once the COVID-19 crisis has eased, you might want to continue and even step up these measures. As odd as it sounds, the extreme situation we’re in right now, is an opportunity to grow as a team and acquire new leadership skills and tools. In the end, it’s about retaining and institutionalizing the good practices we learned from this situation.